Humbert & Penzel: Step Across the Border

I needed a break from watching new documentaries and through the Swiss (many films for free streaming) I was brought to watch this Swiss classic from 1990. The title was familiar but I could not remember if I had seen it before. I had not. 30 years old but still fresh and fun to watch, because of its energy, of its constant surprises in its narrative construction; „let’s try it all” as the leading music genius Fred Frith does, FF being (indeed when you watch his ”instruments”) multiinstrumentalist, composer and improviser. He is here, there and everywhere, in the studio, at a concert, in the countryside playing with friends, in a cellar improvising, in landscapes – in NY and very much in Japan where a good deal of the film is shot. Rainy streets, Japanese sleeping in the train, FF and colleague discussing at a Japanese outdoor kitchen. ”I am happy if just one person comes to me after a performance saying that it meant something for him or her”.

… and I remember the creative collaboration that FF has had with German filmmaker Thomas Riedelsheymer – “Touch the Sound” (2004), a true masterpiece with the nearly deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie and FF. 

The sound/music is great, you will listen, like it or dislike it. There is a movement in this powerful film, and for the fans of Jonas Mekas and Robert Frank there are small bits with them to enjoy.

Love what the directors say, quote: “In unserem Film treffen sich zwei verwandte künstlerische Ausdrucksformen: Improvisierte Musik und Cinema direct. In beiden Fällen geht es um den Moment, um das intuitive Begreifen, was in einem Raum vor sich geht. Musik und Film entstehen aus der verschärften Wahrnehmung für das Augenblickliche, nicht aus der Umsetzung eines gedanklichen Plans.”

Nicolas Humbert und Werner Penzel

The film can be watched for free via the link above.

Switzerland, 1990, 84 mins.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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